Cycle and control of consumerism and consumption in our cosmopolitan world

Are you being controlled by what you consume and purchase, or do you control what you consume and purchase?

  • Clothing consumerism

Have you ever tried standing in the middle of a departmental store?

I did, and what I saw was a bird eye view of shoppers all around – flickering through the stacked clothing on the shelves, and rummaging through the plenty of hanged clothing with immense focus. This image of mine was sustained continuously with the changing crowds roaming through the entire place.

Standing at that very same spot, I wondered..what kept the cycle of clothing consumerism so addictive? Were the shoppers aware of what, or why they continued to shop regularly? Or what made humans, especially girls so enthusiastic towards the act of regularly purchasing new clothes in their lives?

Seasons come and go. Styles or textures of clothes unpopular now, may end up popular during the next few decades and vice versa. But is there really a need to buy new clothes every few weeks? And what do we do with our old clothes? We throw them away, or leave them to collect dust and air in our ever-growing closet.

  • Technological devices

The trend of changing to new phone every one year or so. Phones might differ in brands, designs, and new changes but, they ultimately have the same basic functions. What is so great about getting the latest edition of a phone? If you use a phone up to you’re in your seventies, it means you would change your phone over 50 times.

  • Eateries & plastic cups and bottles, tissue papers, and bases 

Drinks are placed in plastic cups. Chicken, burgers, and sauces placed in plastic bases or in packets. Plenty of tissues given out. This is done for every single customer. And this cycle continues on an every second basis. Soft drinks are also manufactured into plastic bottles.

  • Food and drink wastage

How many times do we even finish the cup of drink we buy at an eatery? We end up throwing them away. How many times do we finish our plate of food? We just leave the pieces we hate on the plate, or we buy a portion without asking for lesser even though we know we cannot finish it.

  • Plastic bag consumption

Singapore uses 3 billion plastic bags a year: study

*As long as you take the receipt, you need not worry about being accused of stealing the items.

This cycle of consumerism starts since young if we do not even realise it. How many pencil boxes, school stationeries, water bottles, and bags have we changed?

And these micro-level cycle is just a subset of the bigger picture of the meso/macro level systems.

What are the effects of consumerism or increased consumption?

1. Environment

Plastic bags are used in staggering amounts in our daily purchasing. They are not degradable, and when you burn them, they become toxic CO2 emissions.

2. Cheap or/and Child labour

Cons:

10 Major Clothing Brands Caught in Shocking Sweatshop Scandals

10 Companies that use slave labour

Children pay high price for cheap labour

The People Who Make H&M, Gap, And Zara Clothes Earn $38 A Month And Are Demanding $100

Pros:

8 Arguments In Support Of Sweatshop Labor

3. Shift in mainstream life values to – increased consumption

We start to live, compete, and work for material wealth. We become addicted to this cycle without realising it, and it soon becomes a normal trend. We start to forget about our environment, people, and world around us. We become more  individualistic, superficial, arrogant, and greedy. We only want to consume more and more, and judge others who do not as much as us.

 4. Continuous cycle of supply and demand

I don’t know much at all about the economy, or how the cycle of consumerism exactly works in depth. But what I can say in simple terms is that – materialistic consumerism could be an inevitable cycle which helps individuals from poorer countries gain employment by producing goods (supply) e.g. clothes for their richer counterparts, while sustaining the materialistic culture (demand) of individuals in first world countries?

Though not all the workers may always be treated ethically in terms of welfare or wages, sweatshop labour might be a better alternative, or comparable to the incomes they earn when doing other types of jobs in their country.

Income disparity is an existing issue that will continue to stay prevalent. Depending on which country or financial background we come from, we all play our respective occupational or functional role in our society – to continue the cycle of demand and supply in whatever areas needed for our world systems.

Can we do anything about it?

We do not want to significantly take away essential jobs. So, we can try to decrease or focus on maintaining the rate of consumerism – to prevent it from booming, while cutting down on actions that bring about environmental harm.

Possible alternative actions we can undertake to tackle the issue: 

1. Reuse old plastic bags by for newly bought items.

2. Buy a few recycle bags and categorize them for daily usage e.g. 1 for clothes, 1 for food, 1 for marketing (fishy food), 1 for marketing (fresh food) etc.

3. Bring a tupperware when you go out to “dabao” or eat, and an empty bottle if you intend to buy a non-bottled drink.

4. Ask for lesser portion if you know you cannot finish, and do not take more than what you can consume.

5. Buy clothes you will wear for the next few decades e.g. classical pieces or those you are able to mix and match. You cannot determine fashion trends, but you can determine what you would like to wear in the long run.

6. Change your technological devices e.g. phone, TV, laptop only when your plan expires, or when it spoils.

7. Cut down on internet, phone, and laptop usage.

8. Use the recycling bins placed nearby our respective flats.

9. Focus on spending on what you need or what you really want, not what you want but might throw aside a few weeks later.

10. Spreading awareness is already the first step to change.

To check out our other posts on alternative issues, click HERE

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Written by: Cass

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Featured images credits:  Paris Chia Photography (website), @Instagram@Facebook

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